Creative Fitness Fun for the Whole Family
Depending on your kids' ages and interests, finding positive ways to help them stay active — and get exercise yourself — can be challenging. By taking a flexible and creative approach, you can be more active and have fun at the same time. Our Carolina Parent Healthy Families Challenge experts and families share ways to get moving using activities kids already enjoy.
Take advantage of technology
Use technology to get your family moving, and kids won't even realize they are exercising, suggests Beth Blount, a personal trainer at the Cary Family YMCA and mother of a 7-year-old. Here are a few suggestions from Blount's Healthy Families Challenge expert blog post, "Technology & Family Fitness: A Great Combination."
Phone Apps – One that Blount likes is FitQuest Lite, where young kids jump and run to make the squirrel move. When the kids stop moving, the squirrel sits down.
Wii Games or Xbox Kinect – In addition to Wii Fit games for adults and kids, consider Just Dance, which can be just as effective a workout.
Pedometers – Encourage kids to get 5,000 steps a day, and increase the number of steps if it gets too easy. When children complete 10 days of 5,000 steps, celebrate with something they really enjoy.
TV Time – Have kids pick one show each week the family watches together. During every commercial, get up and exercise. Do jumping jacks, pushups, squats, planks, running up and down the stairs, etc.
Play games with a fitness twist
A deck of cards and lots of enthusiasm is all you need to play an active game, according to Kara Lockhart, a fitness specialist with the YMCA at The Factory and mother of five.
In short, you assign a simple exercise to each card suite and perform the number of exercises that go with that suite depending on the card that's flipped over. Face cards and aces are additional
repetitions. Set a time limit or number of cards to play, aiming for 30-45 minutes. Remember to keep it fun and take water breaks, Lockhart advises.
For more detailed instructions, read her Healthy Families Challenge expert blog post "Family Game Night with a Fitness Twist."
Mix it up during the day
Elizabeth and Ben Carr's sons, Joseph, 6, and Dallen, 3, enjoy exercising and have energy to burn. The challenge for this Wake Forest family is to find positive ways to help the boys be active. One solution has been to incorporate short exercise sessions into their daily routine.
Elizabeth homeschools Joseph and Dallen and has started incorporating exercise into the curriculum and school schedule. Her goal is to exercise daily as part of the school lessons as well as exercise at the YMCA at The Factory.
Before starting the day's first lesson, Carr explains that she leads the boys in a 10-minute exercise session to burn off some energy and warm up their brains. They do aerobic activities such as jumping jacks, jump rope and jogging in place and incorporate strengthening and balance exercises.
During the rest of the school day, the plan is to take 2-minute breaks every 20 minutes to get up and get moving. Ben works from home and joins some of these exercise sessions, too.
The Carrs have also tried the family fitness class at the YMCA at The Factory. (Read Elizabeth's upcoming blog post to learn more about those classes.) So far, she says it's been more of a challenge to find positive active outlets for the youngest son, Dallen, since he isn't old enough for the family fitness classes or a morning tumbling class at the YMCA. He and Joseph enjoy the card exercise game Lockhart recommends (above), she says.
Find what works
Planning physical activities together can help everyone stay motivated, according to Cindy Goulding, a licensed behavioral counselor, certified fitness trainer, health and wellness coach, and a Carolina Parent Healthy Families Challenge expert. Let each person choose a different activity. The variety reduces the risk of becoming bored and also works your muscles in different ways, she writes in her Carolina Parent blog post "Getting Kids to Eat Healthy and Exercise."
Tina Steed of Apex embraces variety and enjoys trying different options to see what works best for her and her two girls, Day, 10, and Belle, 8, for all of their healthy lifestyle changes. Along with trying several new recipes for mealtimes, Steed has also experimented with different classes at the Cary Family YMCA (her daughter Day enjoys the family fitness classes) and has taken advantage of the covered pool, which is deep enough that her girls have to stay moving to stay afloat.
Steed says that when making changes and trying something new, it's expected that things don't always go as planned. But with a sense humor and positive attitude, you learn from each experience.
Read the Carolina Parent Healthy Families Challenge blog posts for more tips from our experts and families who are making healthy lifestyle changes. Also join our Healthy Families Challenge to earn points for prizes, including $1,000!